Wednesday, July 28, 2010

From Comic Con: Part 1

Last week was Comic Con. I didn't go, but I know people who did. I'm going to feature a couple guest posts about their experiences at Comic Con (mostly so I can live vicariously through them).Excerpts from "The Geek's Weekend at Comic Con 2010" by Nick Odani

Going into it, I had that interesting sensation of both enthusiasm and dread over celebrating my geekness and dealing with those express themselves a little too much, respectively. There were some notable differences between this year and last, largely thanks to the alleged commercialization of the convention, that I found to be pretty neat, if not completely beneficial for the event as a whole.

Preview Night
I showed up prepared for a long haul to get my pass which ended up taking me a whopping....10 minutes? Something ridiculous like that. If you have the option next year, DO IT, if not for the expediency of badge pickup alone.

Another tip for Preview Night: if you're even half of an awesome, rational human being, pre-register for the following year's con. If you end up unable to make it, you can always cancel later on and get a full refund.

The three hours boasted an impressive, if not hectic three hours of floor time with vendors rocking their respective products (sometimes literally), making it swag galore for those who enjoy that sort of thing (read: me). There was also an unusual atmosphere of good spirits, but I'm going to go ahead and assume that everyone is excited and hasn't had the opportunity for the masses to grind out the patience of vendors and attendees yet. Yet another reason to check it out.

Hall H, With Eyes Intact
For the uninitiated, Hall H is the largest area at SDCC to host panels, reaching a capacity of 6,500 or so. I may have made that number up, but it's around there. Getting in is just as much of an ordeal as getting a hotel room for the event. Panels generally start around 10am, and if you hop into line by, say, 8am, you're already looking at getting some pretty questionable seats (it also doesn't help that the first 15 rows or so are reserved for press to begin with). Also, if there's a high-profile panel going on at some point during the day, expect an even more ridiculous line (ex. I've hopped in at 4am before and STILL wasn't anywhere near the front).

Throughout the weekend, I attended all sorts of panels ranging from comics to websites to TV shows, but Hall H is a different beast in that the BIGGEST stuff is reserved for that monster of a hall.
I spent the entirety of Thursday in the Hall seeing previews for Megamind with Will Ferrell, Tina Fey & Jonah Hill in attendance, followed by Tron: Legacy, which featured the main cast and was followed by a couple of exclusive Disney announcements. I need to take an aside and say that the previews they had for the new Tron were downright amazing. I'm not big into the 3D craze, but they did this one in true 3D and it was simply astounding. This is the third Con they've hyped the movie, and the ever-critical geek crowd was still in awe. That says something.
A series of other movies were pimped as well, including the Black Hawk Down-esque alien invasion flick Battle: Los Angeles, the Jolie vehicle Salt (I admit, I was a hater until I saw her in person...and now I'm in love, 15 years after everyone else), Red (Hellen Mirren looks great by the way, AND she was sporting a Harvey Pekar shirt! bwah!), and mega-awesome, mega-manly Expendables panel with Stallone, Lungren, Couture and Crews.

I could go plenty in depth on the panels themselves, but between Tron: Legacy and the last panel, they pale in comparison. And what was the last panel of the day, you ask?

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
It was predicted on many a-geek blog, and it indeed came true: Scott Pilgrim took over the Con. The Hilton Bayfront sported a giant supergraphic of the movie, Hilton Gaslamp converted their courtyard into the Scott Pilgrim Experience (an outdoor concert venue with performances from the likes of Kid Koala and Dan the Automator along with customized SP shirts), a garlic bread truck that passed out...well, garlic bread to passerbys, a tent near the Hilton handing out swag to attendees, and the Oni Press booth on the convention floor that usually had a lengthy line going on, with fans old and new getting as much gear as they can for the flick.
(Exclusive Scott Pilgrim poster by Kevin Tong for Oni Press)

Despite all of the above (and good lord, was there alot going on), perhaps the biggest celebration of the series and upcoming movie was the Scott Pilgrim panel in Hall H on Thursday. Director Edgar Wright and the ENTIRE main cast (except for two evil exes), along with a brief appearance by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost graced the stage for clips, comments, and all-around witty humor. Pins were handed out, and a select few (hundred) were given the opportunity to go see a sneak peek screening of the movie at a nearby theater, with Wright himself leading the pack. On top of that, the band Metric, featured on the soundtrack, performed there as well, and basically I was one of the most jealous nerds that day. The sneak peeks continued throughout the Con, and my friend, a long-time SP fan, came back thoroughly impressed, so perhaps it's not all hype.(Michael Cera dresses as Captain America)

The Floor
The layout this year was a little different, and a lot more difficult than before. The major studios took the center, and this time the gaming companies took center floor as well, making the trek between one side to the other awfully difficult for anyone wanting to move faster than a brick wall. Of course, plenty of attractions (Tron's light cycle and Odin's throne!) were spots for photo ops, and the dozens of celebrities doing signings slowed things down. And the stoic, statuesque nature of gamers in awe of playing unreleased material slowed traffic even more (in all fairness, there WERE a lot of awesome games out there, including LittleBigPlanet 2 and Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions).

The biggest victim of this set up were the artists. Artists Alley was literally thrown into a corner and away from any cross-traffic and the resulting casual attendee who might have gained interest as he was passing by. While some booths like Tokidoki, Munky King, and everyone on this list were located near the all the hub-bub and got some of that sweet attention.(Daniel Zana, Tara McPherson, Gary Baseman)

The webcomic area, any place selling trade paperbacks, the somewhat fetishist booths, costume/prop booths (hey, steampunks need a place to go too) on the opposite end seemed to be doing fine, but then again, there's about two feet of walking space around there, so maybe it was just an optical illusion.

By Sunday, these vendors started to get desperate to sell product (after all, it does cost A LOT of money to move inventory to and from a store), and the big deals started one, get one free, sales up to 60% (highest I saw), and haggling galore. The Con to waiting until Sunday is that a lot of the good stuff gets snatched in the days prior; what's an impulse buying nerd to do??

But I digress. If the floor ain't what you're looking for, and you're tapped out on panels in the convention center, there's always...

The Other Places
Since the Con has grown to the point where the convention center can't hold everything in, it's spilled to the surrounding area, big time. The Hilton Bayfront freed up their Indigo Ballroom to host panels. The Marriott offered even more space, if not in a more impressive fashion. All things anime were featured here, as well as a full day's worth of films throughout the event in addition to panels that couldn't fit into the convention center.

Seeing the two hotels hosting extensions for the Con was pretty sweet because they were within walking distance to the center (and in some cases, closer than walking to the other end of the floor), and it was A LOT less hectic.

Even more so, it was pleasant to see...

The Geekification of San Diego
Comic Con's contract with San Diego expires in 2012, and rumors it moving to Los Angeles or Anaheim are all the buzz at the moment, but I can't imagine either city fully embracing the geek community the way San Diego has. Local stores, cafes and restaurants really outdid themselves, whether they hosted themed after parties, sported comic-related decor, costumes and swag, or going as far as completely revamping their space for the event. Caffe Carpe Diem, thanks to SyFy, made a Eureka-themed cafe with a completely redone menu, the Tron-themed "Flynn's Arcade" opened up the next street over, and a few streets passed that was "Britt's Garage" to promote the upcoming Green Hornet movie.
Probably the biggest sign of nerdom was converting all the signs for the tram stops into Klingon, both in native writing and in English letters. I just gotta say I gotta hand it to San Diego for dealing with us, because holy crap, is that hardcore.

All in all, as hyped as it was, Comic Con still delivered. I got a lot of prints and comics I've been looking for, got to meet and actually talk to some creative forces behind the stuff I love, attended way more panels than outlined above and had a blast the entire time, saw (and SMELLED) plenty of interesting individuals, and basically got to freak out with my geek out for the better part of a week. I did miss some of the more interesting incidents, such as the anti-Con demonstration thanks to the Westboro Baptist Church, or the infamous stabbing in Hall H, but I'd like to think that one can enjoy themselves without having to deal with that.

And with regard to the growing commercialization of SDCC, I have a long spiel for that, but I'll try to sum it up as best as possible: I don't think it's all that bad. Con snobs who speak of the "good ole days" always talk about how it was exclusive and there were no lines or full panels, but now a lot of small press publishers and independent artists have even more people exposed to their work, converting many (including me and my friends) into fans in the process. The sponsorship of these major houses also allows for such awesomeness as the Scott Pilgrim Experience, the conversion of local businesses into themed venues, and the expansion of convention into neighboring hotels. Of course, the expansion also means a lot more stupid people who try one's patience (and how), but it does open the opportunity to bond with another attendee over mutual hate for someone else. Sure, it's a terrible thing, but hey, those make for the best friends, right?

No comments:

Post a Comment